Another Year of BCS Mess

As a college football fan, you can't help but be sucked into the suddenly controversial BCS berth discussion, which transformed into a trainwreck after Saturday's whipping in Southern California. Both USC and Notre Dame are in the crosshairs of a heated debate that indirectly impacts Stanford, as well as the entire Pac-10 conference.

This past weekend of college football muddied the Bowl Championship Series waters to the point that we dare not tread through them, much less drink of the essence. Notre Dame was bitch-slapped like some 12th game directional patsy, sending them on a dizzying downward spiral, while the Sooners were swooning after the Cowboys crushed their title hopes. Not only did these results change the identities of the Fiesta Bowl candidates, it more importantly shook up the upper echelon of the BCS rankings, which will impact the all-important elite eight bowl berths.

Before delving into the current BCS scenarios and issues, a couple of points on the relevance to Stanford football. Note that there are three teams in the greatest flux for these elite bowl berths and payouts - U$C, Notre Dame and Iowa. The first two on that list and annual opponents of the Cardinal, and arguably the two greatest recruiting opponents. While Michigan has been a big recruiting opponent in recent years, and Georgia Tech went tete-a-tete with the Card in a lot of big collisions the past two years, the Trojenz and the Domers are the opponents that litter almost every recruiting battle this year. Ignoring the probation-laden Weenies from across the Bay, the two aforementioned teams also happen to be the fiercest in-season rivals for longstanding Stanford fans. Yes, few teams raise on the schedule raise our collective ire quite like the occupants of Compton and South Bend.

Beyond that, the question of whether a second Pac-10 team gets a BCS bowl berth is a big financial proposition for all members schools of the conference. With a second berth, Stanford will find their coffers lined with sweaty, crumpled Benjamins to the tune of a million duckets, give or take a little. Now that I have made enough excuses for the relevance of this extended analysis and rant, here goes...

The new BCS rankings will be released today, and they will show that the two-loss Trojenz of U$C have vaulted ahead of one-loss Iowa for the prized fourth slot in the rankings. That fourth slot is so important because the BCS bylaws state that if the top three teams in the final BCS rankings are conference champions, then the #4 team automatically must receive one of the two at-large BCS berths. Even if Arkansas beats Georgia somehow this weekend in the SEC championship and knocks the Dawgs out of their #3 slot, the BCS rules would give the one automatic at-large spot to a conference non-champion in the third slot, which would likely still be U$C.

It looks like Traveller's stink-laden trailer will be headed East, and $C owes it all to the strength of the Pac-10. Certainly the Trojenz did themselves a world of favors by playing tough non-conference schedule, including Kansas State, Colorado, Notre Dame and Auburn. But that extra loss that saddles their record is being overcome by their #1 schedule strength in the country (footnote: Stanford has a clear hold on the #2 schedule in the country, which did not help matters this year). That gives $C the edge over Iowa, who played mostly patsies out of the conference, including Akron, Utah State and Miami of Ohio. On top of that lofty line-up, Iowa was saddled with a middling Big 10 this year, which has been rife with disappointment and derision.

Just how weak is the Big 10 this year? Jeff Sagarin's exalted numerical ratings for all Division IA teams and conferences has the northern boys as just the #5 conference in America. And that tenuous fifth place is just one one-hundredth of a point ahead of the Big (L)East. The Beast??? The conference that sports annual patsies Temple and Rutgers, not to mention a notably awful Syracuse this year? Woof.

Notre Dame finds themselves slightly removed from the catbird seat, and instead now in the crosshairs of all BCS speculation and debate. There has been much comment through their season that they have won with smoke and mirrors, otherwise defined as "the luck of the Irish," with timely tide-turnings on special teams or defense. They had their green and gold britches yanked down for some very public corporal punishment this past Saturday when Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu treated them like the proverbial ragdoll. Now there is quite an outcry that the Domers just don't belong in a BCS game, when such worthy candidates as Iowa and U$C should occupy the two at-large spots. But be warned if you try to make the "best teams" moral argument that your tenets are not those that are held most dear to the BCS bowl officials. There world is one ruled by dinero, and the 'Rish have set a precedent before in being selected inspite of mediocrity given the television audience and traveling numbers their fanbase provide. Remember their ignominous annihilation in the Fiasco Bowl in Tempe a couple years ago by Dennis Erickson's River Rats?

One key to who gets the slots is the pecking order of the BCS bowls. If Miami and Ohio State indeed meet in this year's championship game, then you could see Florida State in the Orange Bowl and the SEC champion (likely Georgia) in the Sugar Bowl. If Oklahoma holds on for the Big XII title, they could be a good fit in the Orange Bowl, though the officials in Miami might then rebuff FSU and ask for an at-large selection given that they lost the Big East champion Miami to the title game. OK, so then you could see FSU-UGA in the Sugar Bowl, and some at-large versus Oklahoma in Miami. The Rose Bowl would also be robbed of their rightful Big Ten champion, leaving them with Washington State versus some at-large. If you let the Rose Bowl pick first, they are almost sure to take Iowa, so that they can preserve some sanctity for the Big Ten versus Pac-10 history of the game, not to mention a rabid Hawkeye fan base that appreciates and would flock to Pasadena. As mentioned above,


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